Volume 37 | April 2020
Mayor Pro Tem
Dear Indio Neighbors,
I fear that we will be posting this column right when the spread of the virus is reaching geometric numbers. It is a frightening and confusing time for people. I have spent the last 30 consecutive years as a City Manager in several different cities. However, for all that experience, the events of the last month are unique to me – to all of us. After an earthquake or ice storm (I have worked out of state), you can look to neighboring communities who are less seriously affected. In a couple weeks, the electricity comes back on and usually the economy starts picking back up. 
But a pandemic! The entire globe is engaged in fighting this one, and the long-term impacts on residents and businesses is yet to be determined. We are so proud of the way the Indio community has cooperated with Public Health officials who told us to stay home and to maintain separation from one another. Our human instinct is to reach out to neighbors to help. But now, we have to yell through windows, over the back fence, or by phone – if we even know their number. People are understandably anxious for all sorts of good reasons. We all wish we could predict the future.
So what does a City government do at a time like this? I will give you some examples:

  • First, we express our belief that this community will certainly get through this and will support one another in the weeks and months that follow. We see this resolve in our community every day, as most people (despite a few ignorant resisters) comply with the social distancing and stay at home orders.

  • We are doing our best to communicate what we know on our website, by social media, and by responses to your emails and calls. This is more difficult than one might think because the orders from the State or County have tended to evolve from one day to the next. I personally wish to acknowledge those State and County officials who are working so hard to serve us. There are no weekends for them. It is 24/7. They share information with us, and we do our best to pass along relevant information to our citizens.
  • We also send special thanks and prayers for the first line service providers who are selflessly putting themselves in harm’s way for the greater good. I especially thank our own dedicated City of Indio teammates who see to it that essential City services are uninterrupted 24/7 at this difficult time. A City’s primary purpose, as you know, is to provide for the public safety, emergency medical and fire services, public works maintenance, clean and reliable water service, and services to our building and business communities. We are doing all this and at the same time trying to make it safe for our employees (many of them front line with the public). We have acquired new equipment, instituted new working protocols, and designed new staffing schedules. A City is an emergency services organization, and I am always in awe of my own teammates as they maintain their high service ethic during difficult and scary times like this. They care! 
  • First time ever, we closed the public counter at City Hall and at IWA, but have not quit providing services. To protect both the public and our staff, we are asking people to conduct the bulk of our business online, over the phone, or by mail. When something just has to be done in person, we make appointments. This is a change, but a good one that the staff is making work. We thank the public for the flexibility.
  • City staff are also doing our best to assist County Public Health where we can. The County has opened a temporary Federal Medical Center at the Riverside County Fairgrounds, and this week they established a drive-through testing location on the same property. These facilities are staffed by highly trained medical, public health and public safety officials. They were installed with amazing speed, with help from the Army Corps of Engineers and the National Guard. Medical workers have been recruited from other areas and from the ranks of the retired. It is an inspiring operation to observe.

Indio residents have been very supportive of all these efforts, but we have had a few who asked us if it was smart to allow a medical facility and testing site right in the middle of town. There are several good answers to this question, all of which support the decision. First, the City of Indio does not own or control the Fairgrounds. It is County property and they made that choice. We support it. The medical center will provide overflow beds for patients being treated at what could soon be an overwhelmed hospital system. It was critically important for this capacity to be provided in advance to supplement our local hospitals. The Fairgrounds site was ideal because it is entirely controlled by the County and secured by the Riverside Sheriff’s Office. It allows the isolation for the workers, the patients and the public.

Similarly, we have been asked why we would agree to a testing facility at the Fairgrounds site. Again, we do not control the Fairgrounds, but the answer, quite simply, is that the only way this entire pandemic ever ends is dependent on accelerated testing. That has been the missing ingredient from the beginning. Once there is testing, the infected population can be more fully quarantined and the virus can be much more fully contained. There will be many testing sites. Each of them requires high security and sterile working conditions, as exists here in Indio. 

  • The City Council and City Commissions have converted to call-in meetings for conducting City business. We are still learning how to do this, but we are doing our best to learn these new tricks. Again, thanks for understanding as we work through the kinks.
  • Our tireless Code Enforcement team is doing its best to enforce the stay at home order and the prohibition of certain uses. In all candor, we will not catch everything. There is still confusion as to what is essential. The County FAQs on this subject is 20 pages long! But I think we ought to celebrate the way that 95+% of businesses are cooperating. That is truly remarkable in a circumstance where full enforcement is nearly impossible. We are addressing issues with golf courses, churches, non-essential retailers, and an occasional over-sized park gathering, but for the most part, we are finding few activities that endanger public health. 

  • The County has banned short-term housing rentals except where they serve health workers or people affected by the COVID-19. And we have immediately seen a steep decline in short-term rental activity. Please understand that enforcement of this ban is extraordinarily difficult unless large groups of people can be seen at an address. We have written to every permit holder and explained the ban, and we are seeing much less activity in neighborhoods with heavy rentals (including the one where I live). 

The other anxiety provoking aspect of the pandemic is the impact on the economy. We have renters who cannot pay rent, we have thousands of people out of work. Small businesses are struggling. I usually dedicate part of this column to talk about new businesses coming to Indio, and that is the single most asked question when I speak to community groups. People have been proud of the improvements in our local community. So right now, it is very concerning that our businesses are struggling, our citizens are looking for work, and some families are literally seeking help getting their next meal. Our nonprofit community is stepping up as they always do. Local heroes! We all hope the new Federal stimulus legislation will quickly provide a degree of help locally. Nevertheless, it will still be a challenge. We continue to look for ways to help. We do not know where this ends. 
In the meantime, PLEASE take every available opportunity to support local businesses that are open or that take orders online. “SHOP LOCAL” has never meant more than right now. 
So my message is that the Indio community is distinguishing itself in showing its caring for one another. We see very high degrees of compliance. We hear about people who find clever ways to volunteer or contribute in time, creativity, inspiration, donations and neighborliness. I lived seven years in Upstate South Carolina in the early 2000’s. People in that part of South Carolina wave at each other – everywhere, all the time. No one passes a pedestrian without waving at them. For a lifelong Californian, I loved it. We are so busy here, always in a hurry. So right now, we have a little extra time. There are downsides to that (unemployment a bad economy), but we have such an opportunity right now for time with family, calls and texts to friends, exercising, cooking or even cleaning up the yard. How about waving at the neighbors walking down the street. It acknowledges them and says, “I care.”
Mark Scott
City Manager
Fact Vs. Fiction - The Truth About COVID-19

The City of Indio is actively monitoring input from local, state and national health officials to assess the health risks of COVID-19, and update those risks to stakeholders. Additionally, we are in contact with Riverside County Public Health, which facilitates conference calls and sharing information with partner agencies. To stay up-to-date on the most critical information, please refer to the following websites that are continually refreshed with new and accurate information:

Small Business Resources

Your Economic Development team has shifted its focus from business and job production (connecting buyers, sellers and investors) to addressing the economic impacts to our community created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our residents and business community have been hit extremely hard from the economic shutdown and we want to do everything that we can to assist you in this time of need.  

The City has provided the business community a landing site for frequently asked questions, concerns, and information that can be found here . W e have also been coordinating with Riverside County (who has created a website specifically tailored to assisting businesses affected by COVID-19) rivcoccsd.org/covidbizhelp , and we have connected with State and Federal representatives, to obtain and disseminate real-time disaster relief program information to our residents and business community

Among the many resources provided on the City's Coronavirus Business Resources page, are a summary of state and county benefits for impacted workers and links to frequently asked questions regarding unemployment due to Coronavirus. We have also provided details about SNAP, available food resources to cash-strapped residents, and tax assistance.

Indio's workforce is the backbone of our community, and we are doing our best to support our local economy through daily video updates on Facebook, profiling local businesses, and communicating changes about programs and incentives on our social media channels, which are updated multiple times a day. A list of Indio restaurants that are offering take-out, curb-side delivery, and other creative options, is also available on our website . Please call ahead to make sure hours of operation remain the same.

During this time, we continue to move forward with our major economic initiatives and projects including College of the Desert-Indio campus expansion, downtown revitalization, redevelopment of the Indio Grand Marketplace, and business retention and attraction.
United Way Partners with
Indio Water Authority

Are you having difficulty paying your water bill? Recently, the Indio City Council/Indio Water Authority Board approved a partnership with the United Way of the Desert (UWD) to offer the Help2Others program to help eligible residential IWA customers who are having trouble paying their water bill.
Eligible customers can receive up to $50 credit on their water bill twice in a 12-month period; customers must reapply for subsequent years. IWA and UWD are currently waiving the income requirement if your household has been affected by the coronavirus.
The program is managed by the United Way of the Desert, which screens eligible customers and provides them with assistance in paying a past due water bill. Help2Others is funded by IWA’s non-rate revenue and charitable donations made directly to United Way of the Desert.
For more information on how to apply to the Help2Others program, contact United Way of the Desert at (760) 323-2731 or visit  www.unitedwayofthedesert.org/help2others .
 Indio Visitor Center Offers Resources
for Residents

In an unprecedented strategy to help during these times of uncertainty, the Indio Visitor Center, staffed by the Indio Chamber of Commerce, is extending its operational scope to assist local residents and businesses with general questions during the current state of emergency.
Effective Monday, March 30th, staff at the Indio Visitor Center are directing callers, in both English and Spanish, to the agencies and community support services they require based on individual need. This includes assistance for small business owners, the recently unemployed, and others who need guidance locating the appropriate services or agencies.
The chamber “hotline” and informational resources are available to residents and businesses across the Coachella Valley, and aims to provide them with access to available programs and funding, which are changing daily because of evolving concerns about COVID-19 and its impact on the economy.
The office is answering resident calls Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at (760) 347-0676. Residents can also reach them by email at  Info@GCVCC.org
City Hall Public Access Temporarily Closed

I n a first-ever move to maximize the health and safety of City staff, customers, and the community during the COVID-19 pandemic, the City Hall public counter temporarily closed to the public, effective Monday, March 30, 2020. City Hall and City staff will continue to offer modified services, and is now offering online building and planning submittals, as well as the ability to make payments online.
Customers are strongly encouraged to work with staff in Community Development and Public Works via phone, email and through online portals.
In addition, staff will be available on a limited basis for appointment only meetings that must be scheduled in advance.
Call 760-391-4000 for more information, or to reach someone by phone. For all Building and Safety submittals, payments, and inspections please refer here . For all Planning submittals, payments, and inspections, please refer here .
Workforce Development Resources and Current Job Openings

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Riverside County Workforce Development has compiled a resource guide that provides information on unemployment insurance and other benefit information, job search assistance and vocational training, small business resources, current job openings and more! This resource guide can be found here . At this time, partner staff are committed to providing services via phone at 760-863-2500 or online here .
Indio Water Authority Water Safety

COVID-19 does not present a threat to Indio Water Authority’s (IWA) water supply or operation. Nonetheless, IWA has taken a number of precautions to protect the health and safety of our customers, employees, and the community while continuing to deliver safe and reliable water service.
Trish Rhay, IWA General Manager, stated, “Our top priority is to keep everyone safe while continuing to deliver safe and reliable drinking water. IWA’s drinking water comes from deep groundwater wells and chlorinated before entering the water distribution system to ensure that it stays safe through our system to your home. We have layers of redundancy, facilities security, emergency planning, and monitoring and testing to ensure uninterrupted service while protecting the health and safety of our employees, customers, and the community.”
Even though the IWA lobby is currently closed, service staff is available to assist by phone at 760- 391-4038 or by emailing  iwacustomerservice@indio.org . You can make payments online at  iwa.util360.com , use our toll-free pay-by-phone system at (760) 347-4958, use regular mail or drop your payment in the dropboxes outside the Indio City Hall and Indio Corporate Yard.
IWA will continue to monitor regulatory and scientific developments related to COVID-19. Customers can visit  www.indiowater.org  for updated information regarding our COVID-19 precautions. 
Riverside County Opens Medical Center at Fairgrounds

Riverside County health officials have set up a Federal Medical Station (FMS) at the Riverside County Fairgrounds. Public health officials have said that the beds and other materials being delivered will help ease the burden of an expected medical surge caused by the spread of COVID-19.

The California National Guard will be posted at the County Fairgrounds to help receive and set up the medical station with the purpose of supporting their humanitarian mission, not for policing.

The County Fairgrounds is a natural location for this type of medical station, both because of its proximity to a hospital and mental health facilities, and also because of the size of the facility, and availability of appropriate amenities for medical professionals. COVID-19 testing is also taking place at the County Fairgrounds, but appointments MUST be made in advance, by calling 1-800-945-6171. 
Public Safety Officials Discuss COVID-19

Recently both Indio's Police Chief, Mike Washburn, and Indio's Fire Chief, CALFire/Riverside County Fire Department Division Chief Robert Fish, sat down with the City's Director of Communications and Marketing Brooke Beare, to discuss some of the challenges they, and their employees are facing, as public safety officials. 

Both thanked the public for their support, and let them know that in many instances, officers, paramedics, and other safety officers would be showing up to calls wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). 

"For the Indio Police Department, we actually have a series of questions that callers would be asked so that we can determine whether we would be going to a potentially infected household," said Chief Washburn.

"We're going to assume that everyone we come into contact with is a potential carrier of the virus," said Chief Fish. "Hence, we're going to use PPE's exclusively until proven otherwise, so that we create barriers in transmittable spread."

When IPD code enforcement officers are alerted to a home or business that may be operating outside of orders or recommendations related to COVID-19, Washburn said they make a call first to educate the owner or operator. "We're getting great compliance when we ask," said Washburn.

"We're really pushing the message facts, not fear. Indio is a very community based city. We're all in this together," added Washburn.
Indio Parks Open and Closed Amenities

As we continue to follow the "Stay at Home" order, residents are looking for ways past the time safely. The City of Indio has many parks and walking paths still open and available for public use. Please enjoy our parks while keeping in mind social distancing of 6 feet. Below are the current restrictions along with the parks and amenities that can still be enjoyed:

  • Station 87 and Mulligan Dog Parks are closed and locked until further notice.
  • Davis Sports Field is closed and locked until further notice. 
  • The playgrounds at North Jackson Park, Miles Avenue Park, and Cahuilla Park are “construction closed” for safety surface restoration.
  • All other park playgrounds are “caution taped closed” with signage indicating the closure until further notice.
  • Restrooms at Patton Park, North Jackson Park, South Jackson Park and Dr. Carreon Park are open for daytime public usage.
  • Tennis courts at South Jackson Park, North Jackson Park, and Patton Park are closed for public use.
  • Basketball courts at Yucca Park, Cahuilla Park, Patton Park, Dr. Carreon Park, Burr Street Park, North Jackson Park, and Dominguez Park are closed for public use.
  • All parks are pet friendly for leashed dogs with the exception of the South Jackson Soccer Park.
  • All parks are illuminated for nighttime use with the exception of Miles Avenue Park.
  • Other park amenities like walking paths and open play zones are available for public use.
Respond to Your
2020 Census

During this time of social distancing and staying at home, you can still do your civic duty by responding to the 2020 Census from your home in one of three ways: online, by phone, or by mail. When completing the census, you will include everyone living in your home on April 1, 2020. 
The results will also inform how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding are allocated to more than 100 programs, including Medicaid, Head Start, block grants for community mental health services, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The results of the 2020 Census will inform decisions about allocating hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding to communities across the country—for hospitals, fire departments, school lunch programs, and other critical programs and services.
To start your response, visit  2020census.gov .
Indio Senior Center is Taking Care of Members

Due to health concerns surrounding COVID-19, the Indio Senior Center closed its doors to members. However, essential staff are still working at home and on site to make sure seniors are still being taken care of during this time of need.

Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., healthy meals are handed out for those who are 60 years or older who are participants of the Senior Nutrition Program. On Fridays, additional meals for Saturday and Sunday are also provided.
To take part in the Senior Nutrition Program, call the Senior Center to fill out a form and sign up. Senior meals are provided by Mizell Senior Center and the Riverside County Office on Aging.

To stay connected with our most vulnerable members, staff members are also conducting calls daily to make sure they are taken care of. We encourage our community to reach out to a friend or neighbor via phone to check on them.

For help, or to receive information about supportive services, call the Senior Center at 760-391-4170. You can also see updates on our website at  http://www.indio.org/seniorcenter  and on our Facebook and Nextdoor social media accounts.
Senior Shopping Hours

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the following local grocery stores are providing special hours for senior citizens to shop before the general public hours. As of the publish date of this newsletter, the following senior shopping hours for each store were correct. If you have questions about services available at each store, please call the store directly for clarification.

  • El Super - 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.
  • Smart & Final - 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. (Tuesday & Thursday only)
  • Cardenas Market - 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.
  • Target - 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. (Tuesday & Wednesday only)
  • Stater Brothers - 7:00 a.m. - 8:00 a.m.
  • Vons - 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. 
  • Walmart - 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. (Tuesday)
  • Costco - 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. (Tuesday & Thursday only)
  • Winco - 6:00 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. (Tuesdays & Thursdays only)
  • Food 4 Less - 7:00 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. (Monday, Wednesday & Friday only) 
  • Ralphs - 6:00 a.m. to 7:30am
  • Albertsons - 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. (Tuesdays & Thursdays only)
Sunline Services During COVID-19

SunLine Transit Agency continues to take preventative steps in response to the potential spread of COVID-19. They are working closely with the Riverside County Medical Health Department Operations Center and monitoring information from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Local fixed route and paratransit bus service will be provided free of charge. This will continue until further notice. SunLine Transit Agency is taking precautions to provide the recommended social distancing and to help the community in these uncertain times. For more information regarding SunLine services, please visit  www.sunline.org/COVID .
Virtual Tours to Educate and Entertain

As we continue to following the "Stay at Home" order, binge watching TV shows can only occupy our time for so long. With the help of technology, there are over 30 museums, zoos and theme parks that offer virtual tours to help entertain and pass the time. Check out some of the amazing tours here
The City of Indio is the largest and fastest growing city in the Coachella Valley with more than with more than 89,000 residents. Nearly 1.4 million people visit Indio every year to attend its world famous arts, food, and music festivals. With nationally recognized public safety services, exceptional schools, great parks and senior and teen centers, no wonder more than 2,700 new housing units are in construction or being planned throughout the city in addition to new hotels, restaurants and retailers. Indio was the first city incorporated in the Coachella Valley on May 16, 1930, and is governed by an elected City Council that employs a City Manager. The City of Indio embraces its diversity and provides outstanding municipal services to enhance the quality of life for its residents, visitors and business community.
City of Indio |100 Civic Center Drive | (760) 391-4000
information@indio.org | www.indio.org